The Edmonton Oilers (18-11-4) were in Minnesota to battle the ailing Wild (14-12-5) on Thursday night. The Oilers were looking to about face after an horrendous result against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. The Wild were losers in OT last time out, somehow managing to rescue a point from a game in which they had a single shot on goal in the first period against the Ducks. Critical points were up for grabs. How did they do? Did they do well? Let’s find out.
The coverage from P1 is a little light, I happened to catch wind of a scary incident in the OHL on Twitter early in the first that saw Niagara Icedogs G Tucker Tynan catch a skate to the femoral artery. It was so bad the OHL cancelled the game after he was hurried onto a stretcher after having his gear removed. Luckily, it sounds like he’s been stabilized and is either in or through surgery, so it seems like he’ll be OK. Still, that was wild. No pun intended.
The Oilers started with a little jump, spending the bulk of the first half of the period in the Wild zone. A few half chances went begging before they found a reward for their early work.
A bit of ingenuity by Oscar Klefbom and a bit of flair from Sam Gagner combined to produce a beautiful little backhand goal for the former. Klefbom and Gagner executed a give and go beautifully, with Gagner’s pass into space finding Klefbom with room to move it to the backhand and find the finish. 1-0.
But Edmonton’s joy in the first frame would end shortly thereafter, with Minnesota mounting their comeback almost immediately. The Wild started to play the game more in Edmonton’s zone and they would find their equalizer just a few minutes later.
First, through Jordan Greenway, after Mike Smith stopped a wrist shot from the point with his glove before throwing it in off of Greenway’s back. What a weird goal. What an ominous sign. 1-1.
Moments before the buzzer the Wild struck again. A tough play along the wall by Jujhar Khaira led to a turnover with the Oilers caught flat-footed. Ethan Bear found himself lapped by Jason Zucker who caught Eric Staal’s pass in stride and walked in alone to beat Smith with a high backhand. 1-2. 17 seconds from safety. Tough one.
Less than a minute into the period, Oscar Klefbom was attacking and forced a hooking penalty from Carson Soucy. The league’s most ridiculous power play hopped the boards and took their chance to tie it.
A clean entry led to the top unit passing it around the horn before settling with McDavid in the corner. He returned the rock to Draisaitl who made a little move and tucked it home. 2-2. A game.
But, again, the Oilers joy would be short-lived. Less than two minutes later the hosts would restore their lead, this time through Marcus Foligno. A nice chip pass in the neutral zone undid a half-pinched Ethan Bear, and Connor McDavid’s hustle to negate the odd-man wouldn’t matter as Foligno simply kept and wired it past Smith. 2-3.
Three minutes after that and the Wild struck again. Just an horrendous change -- looking at you, Darnell Nurse -- as McDavid and Kassian were being stymied at the Wild blueline led to another odd-man rush against. Another shooter, keeping to beat Mike Smith clean, too. 2-4.
Those two goals came somewhat against the run of play, too, with the Oilers owning most of the attempts to that point in the period. After their fourth goal, Minnesota reasserted themselves some before slowing the game down over the back half of the period. No goals either way meant the Oilers had it all to do in the third.
Minnesota continued their annoying habit of being the better team in this one through the first ten minutes or so. To suggest a comeback seemed likely with ten minutes to play would have been to lie, boldly. But then, it happened.
Gaetan Haas found himself taking an OZ draw on the left dot (goalie’s right). The puck would be directed at net almost immediately, but it took a weird hop and eventually found its way back to Adam Larsson. He wasted no time getting it back toward net, and Haas applied a keen understanding of geometry to deflect it up into the near side cheese. Wow. Deft. 3-4. A game!
This proved to be the heart kickstarting the Oilers needed. Roughly two minutes later, the reunited top line was cooking. Draisaitl was doing the dirty work on the right wall before breaking free with possession. Ethan Bear dove into the open space in the high slot to give him more room to operate, and he found Darnell Nurse. Nurse then found a wide open Bear, who chose to defer to an even more wide open Connor McDavid. The Captain, not one for mistakes, promptly wired home the equalizer. 4-4. A game!!!
Well, for a bit. Eric Staal would piledrive a one timer home with less than five minutes to play and that would do it.
Not long after that, Darnell Nurse got hurt in the corner on what seemed like a nothing play and turned it over. The Wild promptly manufactured another one-timer that beat a somehow still in the game Mike Smith to really put this one to bed.
The Oilers managed to make it interesting again with about 45 seconds to go, as James Neal managed to tap home Zack Kassian’s pass with Mike Smith on the bench. That would be as close as they’d come.
Ah well, that two minutes really was exciting though.
What a frustrating team to watch. They even managed to make a game out of it but still somehow pissed their efforts away in the blink of an eye.
Mike Smith had no business being in the game to let in his fifth of the night. Probably his fourth too. That’s on Tippett.
Darnell Nurse was objectively terrible in this contest and yet, once again, the general consensus on the TL was that he was good and they can’t afford to lose him. Are you kidding me?! I don’t know how you can watch that guy and think he’s anywhere near a top pairing defender. Truly, it’s so baffling to me. If they keep him he will be the albatross. No doubt in my mind.
All numbers 5v5 and courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
CF — 51 - 50 — 50.5%
FF — 40 - 39 — 50.63%
SCF — 15 - 25 — 37.5%
HDCF — 5 - 8 — 38.46%
Shots — 29 - 25 — 53.7%
xG — 1.27 - 1.67 — 43.17%
Golazos — 3 - 6 — 33.33%
The Oilers (18-12-4) welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-13-4*) on Saturday night for Hockey Night In Canada. Uh oh.